Week 5

Cornerstone Connection Lesson


Supplemental Youth Sabbath School Ideas



The Sabbath School materials for the topic “Struggle by a Stream” contains a Student Lesson and a Teacher’s Guide. In addition to these materials provided by the General Conference Sabbath School Department, the North American Division Youth Department is providing supplemental materials you may choose to add to this lesson. Think in terms of your specific setting and the young people at your Youth Sabbath School. As you seek to involve them in the study and application of the Bible for this week, prayerfully pick and choose the components that will form the Youth Sabbath School for your young people. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you make your plan, and then continue to be sensitive for the Holy Spirit to guide you during the Sabbath School.

Session 5 Struggle by a Stream

Scripture passages:

  • Genesis 28-33


Depending on our connection with God, the struggles of life—whether we cause them or they simply come to us—can break us or make us.

Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher’s Guide. This may provide everything you need for the Youth Sabbath School.





Download Lesson 5

Following are additional components that you can pick and choose, use “as is” or adapt to your specific Youth Sabbath School. These supplemental ideas provide more options for this topic. Here’s a brief description of the seven supplemental materials: 

  1. Opening activity
    An icebreaker or something to get people focused as you begin.
  2. Video clip and follow-up questions
    A short video clip and an idea for you to create your own video on this week’s topic, plus a few questions to follow up with discussion.
  3. Music
    It’s best if you create your own and choose what’s best in your setting. We are not endorsing a particular style or even a specific song. Select songs related to this week’s lesson. We’ll suggest several different songs with lyrics that relate to the topic for this week. Sing along with a prerecorded track (YouTube is a good source) or better yet, ask youth with musical talent to play instruments and lead the singing.
  4. Bible study guides for Scripture for this lesson
    This is another approach to the same topic found in Teacher’s Guide, but approached from a different angle. Expect activities to illustrate the topic, followed by some questions.
  5. Application ideas for living out this lesson this week
    Let this spark your ideas to move from talk to action by living out the lesson in practical ways in your life this week.
  6. An outreach or world mission component
    If Sabbath School is just for us, we will spiritually die. We must share what we’ve been given. This can be done locally and/or globally. We’ll suggest several options over 3-4 weeks on reaching out.
  7. Youth leader tip for the week
    This bonus is just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this, or you may learn it through trial and error. Here’s a way to get it with a quick infusion. 

And here are those seven supplemental materials in more detail for this week’s lesson: “Struggle by a Stream.” 

1. Opening Activity

An icebreaker or something to get people focused as you begin.

"Thumb War"

Most people have played this simple hand game in the past. It fits this lesson “Struggle by a Stream” very well. 

Here are the instructions for playing Thumb War. Team up in groups of two. Cup your right hand by bending your fingers to your hand makes a “C” shape. Hook your cupped fingers with your partners, like you’re shaking hands in a weird sort of way — with hooked fingers. This should leave your thumbs free.   

Count out together, “1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a thumb war.” As you do this, your thumbs alternate right to left for each word. Once the thumb war has started, the goal is to pin your partner’s thumb down on the hand rather than letting it go free. You must keep you “C”- shaped fingers cupped while you’re doing this thumb war.   

The person who pins the other person’s thumb is the winner. You can do a single elimination or have a person win two out of three attempts.   

With a group, have the winners stay in the competition and then pair up with another winner. Then take those winners and have them compete against each other. Do this until you end with a champion for the day.   

Here’s a video clip that illustrates how to do a Thumb War:


As we consider “Struggle by a Stream” today, think about little face-offs or competitions you have from day to day, and compare that to a big, major showdown that might be a life-and-death struggle. That level of intensity is what today’s lesson is about. This opening activity is kids’ stuff in comparison to the Bible story “Struggle by a Stream.”   

​2. Video Clip and Follow-up Questions

A short video clip and an idea for you to create your own video on this week’s topic, plus a few questions to follow up with discussion.

Create a video clip that illustrates struggles we face, large or small, or both. 

Or you can use the following YouTube video clip: “Lie to Me” (Part 2) (just over 3 minutes). This is the follow-up to one of the videos last week when the lesson was about Jacob deceiving his father and brother. This week’s lesson picks up what happens when the estranged brothers finally cross paths.   

You’ll find follow-up questions after the link for the YouTube video (or create your own questions after you preview it).  

“Lie to Me” (Part 2)

Follow-up questions 

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how serious is lying? 
  2. Do you consider lying to be a sin? Why or why not? 
  3. When has lying helped you? When has lying hurt you? 
  4. How long does it take to re-establish trust after lying becomes known? 
  5. What’s an example of a lie that you believe about yourself? 

​3. Music

It’s best if you create your own and choose what’s best in your setting. We are not endorsing a style or even a specific song. Select songs related to this week’s lesson. We’ll suggest several different songs with lyrics that relate to the topic for this week. You can choose 3-5 of these or choose other songs. Sing along with YouTube or better yet, ask youth with musical talent to play their instruments and lead the singing. Lyrics can also be found simply by “Googling” a song title.

A Seventh-day Adventist praise team in the state of Indiana created this week’s music videos. They arranged to have their songs recorded and posted them on YouTube to share with Sabbath School leaders. Their simple setup isn’t studio quality, but it captures a live praise band at an Adventist church. The first few songs were done on Friday evening and the rest were part of the Sabbath morning church service. Choose from these seven songs or play them all and sing along. While they put together their music sets for the church in Indiana, they also chose our theme for today, “Struggle by a Stream,” to match. Thanks to Michael Gibson and his team for sharing these with us. 

  • Blessed Assurance 
  • I Could Sing of Your Love 
  • Amazing Grace, Alleluia 
  • Days of Elijah 
  • Come Thou Font, Come Thou King 
  • 10,000 Reasons 
  • Cornerstone 

Blessed Assurance


Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.


Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

(Chorus, repeat)

I Could Sing of Your Love


Over the mountains and the sea,
Your river runs with love for me,
And I will open up my heart
And let the healer set me free.
I'm happy to be in the truth,
And I will daily lift my hands:
For I will always sing of when
Your love came down.

I could sing of your love forever,
I could sing of your love forever,
I could sing of your love forever,
I could sing of your love forever. 
I could sing of your love forever. 

(Repeat verse and chorus)

Oh, I feel like dancing
It's foolishness I know;
But when the world has seen the light,
They will dance with joy, 
Like we're dancing now.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.


Amazing Grace, Alleluia


Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak, but he is strong

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

(Repeat all above)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Days of Elijah


These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant Moses
Righteousness being restored

Though these are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, it’s the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding a temple of praise

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in Your world
And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard
Declaring the Word of the Lord

(Chorus, repeat)

There's no God like Jehovah! (repeat many times)

(Chorus, repeat)

Come Thou Font, Come Thou King


Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

Come Thou Fount, come Thou King
Come Thou precious Prince of Peace
Hear your bride, to thee we sing
Come Thou Fount of all blessing

I was lost in utter darkness
'til You came and rescued me
I was bound by all my sin when
Your love came and set me free

Now my soul can sing a new song
Now my heart has found a home
Now Your grace is always with me
And I'll never be alone

(Chorus, repeat)

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

(Chorus, repeat)

10,000 Reasons


Bless the Lord oh my soul, Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, Oh my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes


You're rich in love and You're slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find


And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore




My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust is Jesus' name


Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior's love
Through the storm
He is Lord, Lord of all

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil


When he shall come with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless, stand before the throne

(Chorus, repeat)

​4. Bible Study Guides for Scripture for this Lesson

Another approach to the same topic as the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic, followed by some questions.

“Struggle by a Stream”

Scripture passages

  • Jacob’s Ladder: Genesis 27:46–28:27
  • On the Run (Again): Genesis 31:1–55
  • Wrestling With God: Genesis 32:1–32

Here’s one way of studying the lesson this week »

Jacob's Ladder (Based on Genesis 27:46-28:27)

    Materials needed:

  • “Let’s Make a Deal” round 1
  • “Let’s Make a Deal” round 2
  • Family Christmas Letter
  • Pencil or pen

What in the world were Jacob and Rebekah thinking when it came to deceiving Isaac and Esau so Jacob would receive the birthright blessing? If Isaac wasn’t deceived, what would happen to Jacob? What would Isaac do to his wife, Rebekah, for initiating this scheme? Would Jacob, the mama’s boy, ever become a man? And what would Esau do? Would he treat it as nothing more than a pot of stew now, or would he stew and stew until he exploded? As a hunter, Esau wasn’t known for his patience or gentle ways. 

In an old TV game show from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, host Monty Hall would play “Let’s Make a Deal” with contestants picked arbitrarily from the audience. To get his attention, audience-goers would wear outlandish outfits that screamed, “Pick me, pick me!” If picked, they would trade something they had, such as a bobby pin or a pair of shoes or a $5 bill for what was hidden on stage. Contestants would always pick what was on the stage, which would be worth hundreds of dollars. And remember, this was decades ago! 

At the end of the show, contestants who had won the most valuable prizes were given the option to trade their valuable “deal” for one last shot at three options hidden behind three large, sliding doors on stage. One might have a brand new car. Occasionally there would be a gag gift, a terrible deal the contestant had agreed to without knowing the results in advance. Part of the fun of the game show was the immediate benefits of trading up, yet there was always the risk of losing big time with “Let’s Make a Deal.” 

When it came to deceiving Isaac to bless Jacob while the old, nearly blind man thought it was Esau, it seems that Jacob and Rebekah were playing a high stakes version of the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Choose one participant from the Youth Sabbath School to play your Jacob version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” You can project on a screen the Keynote or PowerPoint version of the doors, and you are offering four options rather than only three. Will your contestant choose door #1, door #2, door #3, or door #4? Keep in mind that they are playing the role of Jacob. Let them choose their option without knowing in advance what it might be. (See the “Let’s Make a Deal” Round 1 file.)

Download Let’s Make a Deal 1

After choosing the door, reveal, one at a time, the four options. They are:

  • Door #1: Isaac isn’t fooled and kicks Jacob out of the family
  • Door #2: Esau doesn’t mind being cheated out of the birthright
  • Door #3: Esau kills Jacob in a rage
  • Door #4: Isaac figures it out and bans Jacob and Rebekah

As it turns out, those weren’t very good options for Jacob, were they?


  • Why did Jacob and Rebekah want to deceive Isaac?
  • Would you have played along if you were Jacob? Why or why not?
  • What seemed like the best outcomes from this deception? What could be the worst outcomes?
  • What did Jacob gain? What did he lose?
  • What did Rebekah gain? What did Rebekah lose?
  • What counsel would you give to each member of this family just before the deception?
  • What counsel would you give to each member of this family just after the deception?

We played “Let’s Make a Deal” in the context of Jacob and Rebekah’s thoughts before the nearly blind Isaac gave the birthright blessing to Jacob, thinking Jacob was Esau after questions, hearing, touching, and smelling Jacob. Let’s play the game again AFTER Jacob had deceived his father, with Rebekah’s assistance.

Once again we’ll have four doors and you get to choose one, and the surprise that comes with it. (Choose another Youth Sabbath School participant and play round two of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Have the participant choose one of the four doors, then reveal the four “deals.”)

Download Let’s Make a Deal 2

  • Door #1: Killed or enslaved by bandits
  • Door #2: Rejected by relatives
  • Door #3: Join the distant family
  • Door #4: Start a new life somewhere on his own

Once again, the options aren’t good for Jacob. His deception fooled his father, but it turned out to be very costly. Fearing that Esau would kill his twin brother any day, Rebekah added to the lies and cajoled Isaac into sending Jacob back to Rebekah’s relatives so Jacob wouldn’t marry a Canaanite in the future, the way Esau had done and would repeat. Isaac agreed and sent Jacob away. This turned out to be the last time Jacob saw his mother. Strangely, the aged and blind Isaac lived another 43 years. 


Use your imagination and take a custom some families do nowadays around Christmas time. Write a Christmas letter to distant relatives or friends to give them an update on what has happened with your family the past year. (Print off “Christmas Letter Option 1” or “Christmas Letter Option 2” and provide pens or pencils for those in Youth Sabbath School. You can have them choose who in the family is writing the letter—Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, or Jacob. Or you can assign one of the four characters to each person in your group. Have a Christmas song play in the background while participants compose their Christmas card. When the song concludes, invite those who are willing to share their card by reading it aloud, or have them hand-deliver them to someone in your group.)


  • What did you include in your Christmas letter, and what did you leave out?
  • If you received this Christmas letter, what would you think of this family?
  • What do you think and feel after reading a Christmas letter like this? thoughts and feelings does a Christmas letter like this create in you?
  • Is there a better way to dress up this story?   

So Jacob left his parents and seething brother to go find his mother’s relatives, about 450 miles away. Walking the equivalent of a marathon each day would take 15-20 days of travel. That would give him plenty of time to think, but it would also include uncertain travel in terms of bandits or slave traders or wild animals or anything else. What types of thoughts do you think were going through Jacob’s head during his trip? (Feel free to get feedback.)

We can get a very short version of the story. Let’s read Genesis 27:46-28:27. (Take turns having people in your group read the story.)


  • What surprises you about this story? What surprised Jacob?
  • When people sing the song “Jacob’s Ladder,” the lyrics say, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.” What part did Jacob play? What part did God play? What part did the angels play?
  • Why would God give Jacob this dream at this time (the first night of his departure from home for this long trip into an unknown future)?
  • Imagine that you are Jacob. What would this dream have meant to you at that time?
  • When might have God been with you, complete with angels ascending and descending from heaven, but you didn’t know it?
  • What do you make of Jacob’s offer to make a deal with God after God had shown Jacob such amazing grace?
  • What deals have you made with God? What vows will you make to God now?

Many have heard this story from childhood. Jesus made a reference to it at the start of His public ministry. You can read about it in John 1:51, when Jesus told Nathanael he would see “greater things” than the latest wow factor that brought Nathanael to Jesus. He would see heaven open and angels going up and down upon the Son of Man. Can you think of any times this happened during Christ’s ministry? Has anything like this happened in your lifetime so far?

Here’s another way of studying the lesson this week »

On the Run (Again) (Based on Genesis 31:1-55)

As a child, did you ever consider running away from home? Explain.

Read Genesis 31:1-55.

  1. Why did Jacob decide to leave Laban and return to Esau’s land?A. God told him to return.
    A. God told him to return.
    B. He really didn’t like Laban any longer.
    C. Laban really didn’t like Jacob any longer.
    D. There was a famine in the land.
    E. God had a promise to fulfill to the descendants of Abraham.
    F. Jacob had obtained about all the wealth he needed.
    G. Jacob felt homesick for Esau.

    H. Esau really wanted to see Jacob.
    I. Other.

  2. What feedback did Jacob receive from Rachel and Leah?
    A. There were split — one wanted to stay and the other wanted to leave. 
    B. Both wanted to stay with the extended family of their childhood.
    C. Both wanted to leave.
    D. They loved Jacob so much and were willing to go wherever he went.
    E. They felt fearful about going to a place they had never been.
    F. They worried about their children and who they might marry.
    G. They wanted to consult the gods they had growing up.
    H. Yahweh’s promise to be with them gave them utmost confidence.
    I. Other.

  3. Why did Rachel steal her father’s household gods?
    A. This family lies, steals, and cheats all the time.
    B. Rachel wanted a memento from home.
    C. She wasn’t “stealing;” she was “borrowing.”
    D. To build her father’s faith in Yahweh instead of idols.
    E. Rachel felt more at home with her father’s gods than with Yahweh.
    F. Jacob hadn’t cultivated faith in Yahweh with his two wives.
    G. So she could sell them and get some money if needed.
    H. To pass on her father’s gods to the next generation.
    I. Other.

  4. Why did Laban and Jacob need a “watchtower” (vs. 49)? 
    A. They couldn’t trust each other. 
    B. It provided a strategic spot for military advantages. 
    C. They needed a legal stamp to ratify their agreement. 
    D. This provided a good place to say “Goodbye.” 
    E. They were “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and this was their PR publication. 
    F. To have a physical marker to stay on their own side and not cross. 
    G. Other.

  5. “May the LORD watch between me and thee; while we are absent one from another.” This is: 
    A. Called the “Mizpah” which means “watchtower.” 
    B. What you’re supposed to say when it’s time for a religious “Goodbye.” 
    C. I don’t know; I memorized it when I was young. 
    D. A promise to stay away from each other. 
    E. A promise to return. 
    F. A prayer to ask for God's protection.
    G. A request for God to take care of those outside our immediate care. 
    H. Other 

  6. What oaths have you taken? 
    A. Be loyal to my family. 
    B. Always trust God. 
    C. Take care of myself. 
    D. I don’t take oaths. 
    E. Treat others the way they treat me. 
    F. I don’t swear. 
    G. To God and country. 
    H. Other.

  7. Who do you feel more sorry for in this story: Jacob or Laban? Why? 

  8. If you were Jacob, would you rather face Laban or Esau? Explain. 

Here’s yet another way of studying the lesson this week »

Wrestling with God (Based on Genesis 32:1-32)

Materials needed:

  • Handout “Ranking Negatives and Positives”
  • Pens or pencils
  • A table and chairs to arm-wrestle

At his birth, Jacob received his name probably because, as the second twin boy out of the birth canal, it appeared he was grasping the heel of his brother (see Genesis 25:26). Unfortunately, Jacob’s name could also mean “deceiver.” That’s certainly not a trait his parents would want Jacob to develop. Yet it seems that’s what Jacob became known for — his deception of his father to receive the birthright blessing when Isaac prepared to give it to Esau (Genesis 27).  

Perhaps deception ran in the family. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, pushed Jacob to deceive his father, and she helped him do it. When Jacob left home and went to his relatives on his mother’s side, Jacob got to get a taste of his own medicine as deception seemed commonplace in this family. Maybe the name Jacob (“deceiver”) was appropriate. Would you wear that name like a badge of pride or a moniker of shame? 

Youth Sabbath School participant. Ask them to rank the five options on the top half of the page (or cut the pages in half and hand out only the top half for this part of the program). This is the portion “Ranking Negatives.” Rank these five and then lead a discussion with the following questions or questions you create.


  • What negative experience did you rank as the worst—#1?
  • What negative experience did you rank at the best of the worst, the one you ranked #5?
  • Did Jacob receive an unfair amount of negative experiences?
  • Did Jacob deserve these negative experiences? Did he deserve more than what he received?
  • So far, has your life had more negative experiences or more positive experiences? What do you deserve? What do you expect for yourself in the future?      

After 20 years of being with Laban, marrying two sisters, having children, and obtaining flocks and herds, Jacob took all he had and headed back toward his homeland. God gave Jacob the message to return, as well as a promise to be present with him (Genesis 31:3). But fearing Laban, Jacob, and his family and resources left secretly when Laban was away (Genesis 31:17–21). And demonstrating that deceit wasn’t the only problematic trait in this family. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, stole Laban’s household gods in the process of their sneaky departure. She later lied about it (Genesis 31:34–35). The Bible certainly doesn’t gloss over or cover up some of the unbecoming elements of God’s people. Perhaps that gives up hope when we mess up like those who have lived before us. Does it demonstrate to you God’s patience, love, and forgiveness for His people? 

Let’s not forget that Jacob received a message from God to head back home. After the showdown and release from Laban’s pursuit that included God’s intervention with Laban (see Genesis 31:30), Jacob also had an angel escort (Genesis 32:1–2). Even so, Jacob chose to send five sets of gifts to Esau. He spaced them apart so Esau would receive them as five different waves of offerings — peace offerings. Read it as a group. Take turns reading aloud Genesis 32:1–21. 

Earlier we ranked a set of five negatives in the story of Jacob. We’ll try a similar thing by ranking positives rather than negatives.  (Point out the lower half of the handout or, if you cut them in half, give the bottom half to Youth Sabbath School participants.)

Rank these from 1-5 based on the order you think Esau would consider to be the most valuable.


  • What do you think of Jacob’s plan and actions to appease Esau?
  • What more could Jacob have done?
  • Why was Jacob afraid? Didn’t God promise to be with him?
  • Would you rather have a visible army of soldiers with you or an invisible God who sometimes communicates with you?
  • How can you work with God on this? How can God work with you?         

The title of this lesson is “Wrestling With God.” We’ve come to that part of the story! But before we read it, let’s try a fairly brief version of this. Let’s try some arm-wrestling. Go ahead and partner up. (Most people know how to arm-wrestle. Feel free to explain it if needed. Here’s a link if you need an explanation: www.wikihow.com/Win-at-Arm-Wrestling. Have those who win continue with a playoff with another winner. Try to expend the participants’ strength with one contest after another.)


  • Each time two people arm-wrestle, one will lose. Was that you? How are you feeling right now?
  • What are good strategies for winning at arm-wrestling?
  • If you win in a long contest with one person, how does that affect your next contest in a playoff like what we did? Is that fair?
  • Did any other part of your body tense up while you arm-wrestled?
  • What are other ways your arm strength gets taxed and strengthened besides arm-wrestling?

This was just arm-wrestling. There are competitions that involve your full body in wrestling. A match consists of up to three rounds, but each round lasts between 1–2 minutes, depending on the age of the participants. Wrestling is a full-body experience, with muscles throughout your body in full tenseness. It can exhaust a person quickly.  

With this in mind, let’s read Genesis 32:22–32. Read it out loud in your group, taking turns reading it. 


  • What do you find most amazing about this story?
  • How long would you wrestle with a stranger in these circumstances?
  • If wrestling is so exhausting, how did Jacob do it all night?
  • What is the significance of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel?
  • When have you “wrestled” with God? What happened next?
  • What advice would you give to someone who is wrestling with God?

In this surprising story of Jacob wrestling with a stranger, many want to know, “Who was the stranger? Was it God or an angel?” 

It’s not as definitive as we’d like for it to be. The individual is called “a man” multiple times (Genesis 32:24–25). But Jacob named the place Peniel meaning “face of God,” because Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, yet my life has been spared” (Genesis 32:30).

Jacob’s ancestors had seen God previously (see Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 26:2, 24) and later his descendants as well (Exodus 3:16; Exodus 6:3; Judges 13:8-11; 21–22; 1 Samuel 3:21). Some think of the request of Moses to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18) and God’s response that no one can look on God’s face and live (Exodus 33:19–23). Evidently there’s a glory of God that God veiled when He appeared to people on earth. Sometimes God disguised Himself or “closed the eyes” of those to whom He appeared that they didn’t even recognize Him (see Genesis 18:1; Luke 24:13–16; 31).  

For those who think this was an angel, the word “angel” doesn’t appear in this passage. Jacob’s struggle with God through the night serves as a prefigure that Jesus, God who came to earth in the form of “a man,” struggled with God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42).

Perhaps the more important item in this story is the deceiver’s name being changed to “He struggles with God.” Some might not like that meaning any more than “Deceiver/Jacob.” Jacob is no longer a mama’s boy or a “Deceiver.” He clung to God and wouldn’t release his hold until he received a promised blessing. One would think that God could have overpowered him at any time due to God’s supreme power. Evidently that wasn’t the issue for God. Jacob’s clinging to God was what mattered at this point. When Jacob/Israel met Esau the next morning, it seems that his weakness made it evident that his physical limp placed him at the mercy of Esau and God.


  • What are you most likely to wrestle about with God?
  • Who wins? How do you know?
  • What name would you like for God to give you?
  • Do you want to see God face-to-face now? Why or why not?

​5. Application Ideas for Living Out this Lesson this Week

Let this spark your ideas to move from talk to action by living out the lesson in practical ways in your life this week.

The following applications relate to the corresponding “Bible study guides for Scripture for this lesson” above.

A. “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. It’s your turn. Jacob received a vision with a ladder connecting heaven with earth, and angels ascending and descending. What did Jacob do to deserve this? Is this ladder that connect heaven and earth something that is true for you now? If so, what deal/vow will you make with God? What greater things can you expect? Share this with another person in Sabbath School today. Record it in some way (write it on a note and place it in your Bible or pocket or take a photo of this with your device or make a short video of your vow so you can refer to it during the coming week). Check with each other one week from now.        

B. During this week jot down the things from which you are running. This could be something like a schoolwork assignment, a friend who is no longer a friend, a deadline, a punishment, a responsibility you don’t want, a reputation you can’t seem to shake, a God you don’t trust or love, a family member you just don’t want to be around. At the end of the week, make this list a starting point for praying to God and listening to what God has to say to you about each one. Respond to God’s promptings.

C. Several times this week do a set of push-ups to physically exert yourself. As you lower yourself all the way to the ground, think of drawing close to God. As you extend your arms, think of the types of things you do or thoughts you have that push you away from God. When you get to the point of not being able to do even one more push-up, lower yourself to the ground and ask God to bless you, just like Jacob/Israel asked.

​6. An Outreach or World Mission Component

If Sabbath School is just for us, we will spiritually die. We must share what we’ve been given. This can be done locally and/or globally. We’ll suggest several options over 3-4 weeks on reaching out.

With the topic of “Struggle by a Stream” the long-term effects of family conflict, including lying and deceit, can make life harsh, bitter, and fearful.

Make connections with older people and ask for them to share stories of their family from their childhood. The older people could be members of your church or even those who live nearby in a retirement home or assisted living facility. If you already have an ongoing relationship with such a facility, you probably already know some of the residents. If not, this would be a good time to start such a relationship.

When asking for the older people to share family stories from their childhood, keep in mind that many stories may be difficult to bring to mind after decades. Be patient and be ready to share some of your own childhood memories with siblings, parents, and family gatherings such as Christmas and Thanksgiving or family reunions and vacations. Almost any camping expedition will have all sorts of memories. Most families have had experiences with conflict that may have been short-lived and humorous in retrospect. Be sensitive to the reality that some family conflicts could continue to be present and complicated, including not even talking with family members for years.

Look for how God can take difficult times and make them laughable in the future, or prepare people for greater compassion or forgiveness. Take to heart God’s action in shaping even bad experiences for good.

You can change this local service project to something beyond your town by tapping into technology to connect with older people living some distance from you. This could be someone in your own family or your church family who lives in another city, perhaps another state or province, or even a different country. Be sensitive to potential time zone differences as you set up a Skype or video conference call or FaceTime. Keep the same topic of sharing stories from the senior citizen’s childhood memories of family, including potential conflicts that later became building blocks or humorous memories. Close with a prayer of gratitude for God’s leading, grace, forgiveness, and hope.

​7. Youth Leader Tip for the Week

This bonus is just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this, or you may learn it through trial and error, or maybe you just need a reminder of something you already know. Here’s a way to get it with a quick infusion.


While some young people are completely oblivious to how they look, many place tremendous importance on how they look, even if that look is sloppy or a look you would never choose for yourself. Exactly! As they try a new identity, they need to pick something adults would never pick for themselves. You don’t have to like it, or pretend you like it. Just acknowledge “their look” with something like, “This is the first time I’ve seen your new look” or “It looks like you thought a lot about your outfit today” or “I could never get away with that look; but you sure know how to do it!” And don’t be too surprised when it changes next week. 

Ranking Negatives

The story of Jacob includes his negative experiences after leaving his home and taking up residence with his cousin Laban in Haran (Genesis 29–30). Rank the following negative experiences Jacob had, with 1 being the most negative and 5 being the least negative.

  • Laban tricked Jacob to marry Leah instead of Rachel as agreed
  • Jacob had to work 14 years for free in order to marry Rachel
  • Laban cheated Jacob out of the flocks and herds he agreed to give him 
  • Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 times
  • Rachel, Jacob’s wife, couldn’t have children for years and years

Ranking Positives

When Jacob returned with his wives, flocks and herds to the land of his childhood, he received word that Esau (with an army of 400 men) was coming his direction. Jacob, knowing this would be their first encounter since Jacob’s great deception and Esau’s vow of revenge, sent what he considered what Esau would consider most valuable. Rank these positive things, 1-5, in the order you think Esau would want them.

  • Jacob
  • Jacob’s wives
  • Jacob’s children
  • Jacob’s flocks and herds
  • Everything Jacob had

Download Ranking Negatives and Positives